Baseball's New CBA Makes Life Difficult For Rays, Small-Market Teams

Major League Baseball and the MLBPA just announced the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) at 1pm, and there’s been a large amount of outrage on Twitter about the details of the plan. The full list of things the CBA includes is too long for me to include here – check out MLBTR for that – but there are some details to the plan that should specifically impact small-market teams like the Tampa Bay Rays.

For starters, there will be a significant tax placed on the MLB draft. If a team pays its draftees 5% or more than what MLB says they should be spending for those players — i.e. going overslot — then that team will be hit with the tax. Here’s the breakdown on the penalties:

Teams that spend more than 5% over-slot on the draft will face a 75% tax, according to Passan (all Twitter links). Teams that go over slot by 5-10% face a 75% tax and the loss of a first rounder. Teams that go over slot by 10-15% face a 100% tax and the loss of a first and second rounder. Teams that exceed slot by 15% or more face a 100% tax and the loss of two first rounders. (MLBTR, with original information from Jeff Passan)

As a part of this change to the draft, new draftees will only be able to sign minor-league deals. This further eliminates the amount of money and benefits that draftees can receive. There will also be a hard cap placed on international signings, set somewhere between one and five million dollars depending on the year.

All of these rules are expected to shrink the amount of amateur talent coming into MLB via the draft. If a top athlete has a choice between getting drafted by the Rays or the Buccaneers, why would they choose the path that offers less money and no major league contract? This will likely reduce the high-end talent available in the draft, which will have a trickle down effect on the teams picking lower in the draft.

In other words, not much changes for the Rays. They have never been big spenders on the draft, so these rules changes mostly mean that they will simply have to been better than ever at evaluating young talent. There will be weaker pools of amateur talent, so the Rays' margin for error just got even smaller.

To look on the bright side, though, these rule changes also mean that large market teams like the Yankees and Rangers can’t rake in talent through the draft and international market merely by outspending everyone else. By essentially forcing teams to pay slot money for draftees, they are preventing the Yankees from going overslot without hurting themselves in the draft in future years.

In the end, it all depends on how much these rules affect the depth of talent available in the draft. If there is little to no dropoff, then small-market teams should view this as a win since it puts large-market teams on the same footing as them. If there is a large dropoff in talent, though, then this change will make things considerably more difficult for small-market teams to climb out of the cellar.

How exactly will things break? Will this new system be as detrimental as many people expect? Well, we have five whole years to find out.

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